Archive for April, 2012

I Am – The Documentary

This past weekend I was happy to have watched I Am – one of the most compelling documentary films I’ve seen recently. Watch the trailer for a brief intro:

Tom Shadyac, producer of Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura, sets out around the world to interview some of the leading thinkers on two questions: What’s wrong with our world? What can we do about it?

Shadyac ignores the typical responses such as hunger, greed, and global warming. Instead, he digs deeper with the belief that every single person can effect positive change by changing the lens through which they see the world. The most visceral story described by Shadyac is his description of moving into his new mansion in the Beverly Hills. During the first moment when he walked in the door, he did not feel one bit happier. And yet this is what society had been telling him all his life: “If you make a lot of money, you can buy these luxurious items to make you happier.”

The lesson is that money and materialistic possessions do not always lead to happiness. Shadyac goes on to discover that the strongest human characteristic is our ability to work together through cooperation and sympathy. This is of course contrary to the competitive and survival of the fittest theory that is misunderstood in Charles Darwin’s book On The Origin of Species.

My take from the movie is that modern culture is like cancerous bacteria… humans are becoming a self-destructive species because we take far more than we need. We cultivate distinction from each other, and we encourage cut throat competitiveness. I’ll save the rest of the spoilers… but this certainly hits a chord that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, was asked give advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. He responded by saying “Don’t do it.”. Read this article to explore his rationale. I am in complete agreement. Money, power, and boredom are especially dangerous.

The culture in Silicon Valley is rich with high hopes for money and power. This is the exact type of cancerous thinking that is a detriment to both humanity and the chance that your startup will succeed. The second type of cancerous behavior to watch out for is the Latte Factor. People who can not sacrifice the little expenses for the sake of saving towards a larger goal are dangerous for your startup. Instant gratification items add up when consumed in excess!

The expectation that you can build a startup and make lots of money without hitting a few bumps is the road is unrealistic. Motivations based on money and power will make it easy to give up when your startup seems doomed.

You have to want to wake up in the morning and love what you are doing because at the end of the day, you can’t throw money or talented people at any challenging problem. And each person you surround yourself with needs to be passionate about the problem you’re solving. Great results are achieved when you pour passion into any problem. Passion prevails.



04 2012

Hacker Life

Perhaps the most noticeable difference in lifestyle after setting out to do a startup is your sleep schedule. While this certainly varies from person to person, it’s not uncommon for founders to endure the hacker life. Coding sprints and endless desire to do “one more thing” tend to push your working hours farther and farther into the night. Before you know it you become nocturnal.

The founders of Stripe first dropped out of Harvard to start their payments company, and can you guess their first stop? Silicon Valley? Nope. They moved to Buenos Aires. The cafe’s in Buenos Aires are world-famous for opening up around 1pm and closing around 5am. In essence, this is the best fit for the hacker life… Nightly hacking and breakfast after noon.

I’ve noticed a similar pattern in my working schedule. The work at night is of course supplemented by various caffeinated beverages and an endless supply of salty snacks or pizza. I like to joke that I’ll be going to the gym at the end of my work day, and this just happens to be when the gym opens at 5am. This is the hacker life.


04 2012